A motion to protect municipal referenda was voted down in the legislature last week.
The NDP introduced the motion after a court decision in 2009 effectively barred citizens from holding referenda on issues arising from a municipality’s Official Community Plan.
Under the current Yukon Municipal Act, a municipality must hold a referendum if more than 25 per cent of voters sign a petition on a particular issue.
But when Marianne Darragh collected more than 2,600 signatures in 2008 from citizens opposed to a cement batch plant in McLean Lake that referendum never happened.
The court decided a referenda wasn’t needed because public input had already been given during the consultation round of the 2002 Official Community Plan.
As a result of the court decision, Whitehorse has proposed to strike the referendum policy from its 2010 Official Community Plan.
That has removed the necessary checks and balances for citizens, said NDP MLA Steve Cardiff.
When the municipal act was written in 1998, it was intended to give citizens a larger voice in municipal affairs, he said.
It was considered “leading-edge” and progressive by jurisdictions across the country.
“The municipal act was never meant to be watered down in that way,” said former Community Affairs minister Dave Keenan in an interview with the News last year.
When the act was written in 1998, the section dealing with referenda was meant to include the Official Community Plan, he said.
The NDP’s motion last week also requested citizens be allowed to appeal council decisions to the territory’s ombudsmen.
The vote failed seven to six, with all members of the government voting against the motion.
“I’m pretty disappointed that the government didn’t take the issue seriously,” said Cardiff following the vote.
Community Services Minister Archie Lang said the issue will be raised during upcoming revisions of the municipal act.